Cornell has entered into an agreement with Ithaca College this summer to help its South Hill neighbor rapidly transition to providing complete in-house dining operations to its students by the start of the fall semester.
IC ended its contract with Sodexo, a global dining services provider, this spring, aiming to improve and simplify meal plans, lower costs, and help address food insecurity on campus.
Cornell, which is consistently ranked in the Princeton Review’s top 10 for best campus food in the U.S., has always run its dining operations in house. Cornell Dining, within Student and Campus Life, will lead the consulting and training partnership.
The agreement is unique for Cornell and Ithaca College, and time is of the essence – as 4,000 students at IC will have campus meal plans when they arrive in late August.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for Cornell Dining to step up and be a great neighbor and a great community partner,” said Dustin Cutler, executive director for Cornell Dining. “Our culinary team does such an amazing job of creating delicious food in a wide variety of settings on campus, from small cafés to the busiest dining rooms. I know Ithaca College will be able to help translate and share our talent and expertise to fit the needs of their student population. We’re happy to be working with Ithaca College to help them develop their own flavor.”
The agreement, signed in late June, gives Ithaca College access to many of the same systems, vendors and 3,500 tested recipes that Cornell uses for its operations and retail outlets. Ithaca College also will be consulting with Cornell Dining team members while they set up databases, operating procedures, training materials and best practices, said Karen Brown, senior director for marketing and communications for Cornell’s Student and Campus Life.
As part of the agreement, Cornell is charging IC a modest fee to cover resources, consultancy time and staff training in the areas of food quality, consistency and safety procedures.
When Ithaca College made the decision to self-operate their dining services, they saw the Cornell Dining program as an “aspirational benchmark,” said William Guerrero, vice president for finance and administration at IC.
“We never imagined [Cornell] would proactively reach out and offer support to share their best practices as a top dining program in higher education,” Guerrero said. “What we are doing together will provide a road map and serve as an example that higher education institutions can work together on behalf of all students and the community they support.”
“I am very proud of Dustin and his team for stepping up in this manner,” said Ryan Lombardi, Cornell vice president for student and campus life. “It developed quickly as an outstanding community partnership and is reflective of the strength and quality of our program and team at Cornell Dining.”
“We’ve never done anything quite like this,” Brown added. “We see a neighbor across the way that needs some help, and we’ll do everything that we can. We’re good partners with them and have been for a long time.”
Cornell Dining’s mission is to provide a rich, diverse, healthful dining experience to students. It operates 29 on-campus eateries – including “all you care to eat” dining rooms, cafés, coffeehouses, food courts and convenience stores – and serves more than 23,000 meals a day to members of the Cornell community.